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WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday declined to condemn calls for violence and unrest from Democratic lawmakers, saying President Biden would not “opine” on “back and forth arguments.”
At a briefing on Tuesday afternoon as former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial was getting underway, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki was pressed on how the Biden administration felt about incendiary rhetoric from Democrats in Congress.
In their pre-trial brief, attorneys for Trump pointed to comments from Rep. Maxine Waters in 2018 who called for supporters at a rally to confront and harass Trump officials over their support of the child separation border policy — claiming Trump was the victim of a double standard.
NBC News reporter Kristen Welker noted that Biden senior advisor Cedric Richmond had even defended Waters, saying she had “a constitutional right to express those views.”
“So how does the White House view that as any different?” Welker asked Psaki.
“Joe Biden is the president,” Psaki responded. “He’s not a pundit. He’s not going to opine on the back and forth arguments, nor is he watching them, that are taking place in the Senate,” she said.
Psaki also refused to comment on the impeachment trial being pursued by the president’s own party and whether it is unconstitutional, saying: “I don’t think that’s for me or us to opine on.”
On Monday, Trump’s attorneys accused House Democratic leaders of “feigning horror at the President’s choices of words” ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot without considering “some of their own members recent public comments.”
The House last month impeached Trump on the single charge that he incited the siege which left five people dead.
The former president’s legal team noted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi herself at a 2018 press conference said she didn’t understand why there weren’t “uprisings” across the US over Trump’s immigration policies.
“Maybe there will be,” she told reporters.
Added Trump’s lawyers: “As political violence grew last summer, Representative Ayana Pressley went on national TV and said that ‘there needs to be unrest in the streets.’”
Republican Sen. Rand Paul also blasted Democrats for pushing their own brand of violence toward Republicans and Trump allies in an op-ed published Tuesday, saying they were silent during rioting in 2020.
“But where is the other side? Where were they all last year when political violence ravaged our cities, when people could barely dine or walk the streets in many places? When businesses burned and people were injured or killed by mobs?” Paul wrote.
Paul and his wife were themselves surrounded by a mob of Black Lives Matter protesters in Washington, DC, in August 2020 and said they feared for their lives during the ordeal.
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